TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz comes off a successful season in which the team lifted the Spanish League trophy for the first time in 10 years. However, the club has undergone some important roster changes over the summer. While losing key players, it has also landed a few new stars who could make the team even more competitive. Baskonia added firepower with Rokas Giedraitis. It fortified its frontcourt with Tonye Jekiri, who was the second-best rebounder in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague last season (7.5 rpg.), and three-point specialist Alec Peters. Most importantly for its continuity, Baskonia extended the contract of head coach Dusko Ivanovic, who led the team to one of the biggest turnarounds in club history. In his third stint with the club, Coach Ivanovic will make sure that the team plays with its trademark character and leave everything on the floor.
Pierria Henry and Luca Vildoza will continue sharing the team's point guard duties. Henry is a great on-the-ball defender, with a great feel for steals, who thrives in transition offense where he can make the most of his court vision. Vildoza is a tall, poised playmaker with high basketball IQ. He also reads the game well, which helps him find the best option on offense. His injuries appear to be a thing of the past and Vildoza faces a key season in which he could become the next great Argentinean playmaker. Neither of these point guards shot at least 30% from downtown in the EuroLeague last season, so there is plenty of room for improvement. Giedraitis is a great shooter with an extremely quick release, who can also attack the basket due to his size and speed. He was the 11th-best scorer in the EuroLeague last season (13.8 ppg.) and is expected to play a leading role in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Zoran Dragic is back to offer intensity, defense and character. Expect him to showcase his penetration skills, highlighted by an effective Euro-step move.
Baskonia has a deep and versatile frontline with great physicality and presence in the paint and smart power forwards who can open the floor and create for others. Peters saw limited playing time in CSKA Moscow and Anadolu Efes Istanbul, but now has the chance to prove that not only is he one of the best three-point shooters in Europe, but that he can do so much more. Achile Polonara is a team-oriented player who rarely makes mistakes and contributes greatly in blue-collar areas such as playing defense and setting screens while making smart decisions at both ends of the floor. These are important attributes for Coach Ivanovic, who has made Polonara is a key player in his squad. Jekiri is a great rebounder, can finish well around the rim and hit mid-range shots. Youssoupha Fall is a force of nature and almost unstoppable when he is in rhythm due to his size, quickness and mobility. Veteran Ilimane Diop offers blocked shots, physicality and the occasional long jumper, even reaching beyond the arc.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Giedraitis comes off his best season ever and at age 27, he has just entered the prime of his career. An exceptional scorer, Giedraitis has one of the fastest shooting releases in the world, whether it is in a catch-and-shoot or a one-on-one situation. That forces the defender to stay alert every time he touches the ball, which he uses to his advantage. Giedraitis can use his size to drive to the basket, has a great basketball IQ to excel in backdoor situations and can occasionally score in the low post, too. His father, Robertas Giedraitis, was also a professional player who stills holds several Lithuanian League records. Giedraitis is also a good defender who helps on the boards, runs the floor well and often finishes fast break opportunities. And speaking of opportunities, playing for Baskonia can turn Giedraitis into an All-EuroLeague candidate very soon.
Baskonia has put together a balanced core of players, with two experienced point guards, some reliable shooters and a physical frontline with a lot of interesting options. A good start will be key for Baskonia; the last time it had a positive record after 10 games was in the 2016-17 season. Most of its new players are well-rounded veterans with EuroLeague experience, so adjustment should not be a big issue for Coach Ivanovic's team. As always in the last few years, Baskonia's initial goal will be fighting for a playoff spot. Since 2009, Baskonia has been to the playoffs eight times, but just once to the Final Four. Baskonia will try to stay competitive all season and reach its best version in the most important months to challenge for bigger goals.